Boca Raton Bowl: The Final Game Day

You won’t see much two-minute drill practice here.

Now we have arrived at the final “Leave No Doubt” Game Day and the kids who will be playing in it are safely tucked away in their beds, I have a confession to make: I do not have a good feeling about this game and I usually have a good feeling about every Temple football game.

gameboca

No predictions, but this has all of the makings of an ambush. Without a doubt, I feel Temple is the better team in this matchup with Toledo (7 p.m., ESPN) but we all know that the better team doesn’t always win. Just ask Alabama after its loss to Mississippi.

There are other factors, like psychological ones, that have to go into the equation. To me, Toledo sees Temple as a team from a better conference that it could make its season with a win against. I don’t think the feeling is reciprocal from Temple’s end. A lot of things have already made Temple’s season, like tying a school record for wins (10), an extended run in the national top 25, a win over a Power 5 in-state rival (Penn State) and an appearance in a league championship game. Toss in Game Day showing up,  the top TV-rated game of  the Saturday night season, which featured a close loss to a NY6 iconic team, Notre Dame, and you’ve crammed 134 years of Temple accomplishments into three months.

owlfans

Temple fans might not be biting their fingernails over this matchup, but some appear to be biting their lips.

Toledo had a short stay in the top 25, no parallel win over an in-state Power 5 rival (beating Ohio State would have been the Rockets equivalent), no school record for wins and no appearance in a league championship game.  No national  TV and no Lee Corso, either. To Toledo, Temple is big, bad Temple and, to Temple, Toledo is just a team from a conference the Owls used to play in before being “promoted.”

New Toledo coach Jason Candle will want to prove to his administration that their confidence in hiring an unproven assistant was well-founded. Temple coach Matt Rhule has nothing to prove to the Temple administration, which already has full confidence in him.

metro

Today’s Metro has caught Temple fever, something LaSalle grads and Philly.com writers Mike Sielski and David Murphy never will.

fever

Stir in the Temple season motto “Leave No Doubt” and there is some added doubt. That motto was born in a post-season meeting when the Owls were told they would not be awarded a bowl appearance despite being bowl eligible. Kenny Harper told his teammates to leave no doubt about a bowl invitation next year by their play on the field during the regular season. Harper forgot to make up a slogan for the team when it got to the bowl.

You have to wonder, at least subliminally, if the team is just satisfied by appearing in a bowl. One way to artificially change the mindset would be by, say, a surprise onsides’ kick on the opening kickoff that would say, “Hey, we’re here to win this.” That might get everybody pumped up. Passing out pickle juice in the heat might also help.

I just hope I’m being a worry wart and I’m as wrong as Donald Trump ends up being after his “facts” are checked.  Yeah, that might be it. We should find out long before the clock strikes midnight on this Cinderella season.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

Throwback Thursday: When Temple-Toledo Sold Out

ac

Owls’ first “bowl game” with Toledo in 1984.

There has been much speculation over the last few days about Temple fans traveling for a bowl game with Toledo and I’ve seen figures ranging from 3,000 all the way to 10,000.

There was once a time when Temple played in a bowl game away from home with Toledo and sold the place out with almost all Temple fans. The year was 1984 and, for the Centennial Celebration of Temple University, the team played a regular-season home game, called it the Boardwalk Bowl, and played it at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The school sold all 7,000 tickets to the game, but “only” just fewer than 6,000 Temple fans made the trip.

boardwalk

Still, it was a memorable game because Toledo came into the Nov. 30th game as the Mid-American Conference champions with an 8-1-1 record. That thing about Al Golden never beating a winning MAC team did not apply to Bruce Arians, who was 5-0 against winning MAC teams.

Arians’ 1984 team pummeled Toledo, 35-6, on the way to a 6-5 record against the then 10th-toughest schedule in the country. (By comparison, Temple’s current scheduled is rated No. 71.)  One of the interesting things about that game was that Toledo’s defense was the No. 4 scoring defense in the country and gave up only 9.9 points per game. It allowed no more than 17 points in a single game before that, but Temple doubled up that figure.

bowl

Temple had a lot of exciting players on the 1984 team, one of which was a sophomore running back named Paul Palmer, who had a then career-high 148 yards. He would later top that in several more memorable games, including 349 in a 45-28 win over East Carolina in 1986.

Another was wide receiver Keith Gloster, who arguably is the fastest man ever to play for Temple. (We say arguably because you will get some arguments from Devin Hester’s cousin, Travis Sheldon, and James Nixon, who took a kickoff back for 103 yards against Navy in 2009.) Gloster caught a 74-yard bomb from Lee Saltz that appeared seriously overthrown when it left Saltz’s  hand, but he was able to run under it.

As good as the offense was, the “no-name” defense was even better with too many good players to single out one or two.

In 1987, Temple visited the Glass Bowl and Toledo coach Dan Simrell called the Owls the best team to ever come into that stadium. The Owls rotated future NFL running back Todd McNair, then a junior, with sophomore Ventres Stevenson, and grinded out a 13-12 win.

No one knows how many Owl fans will be able to make the trip to Boca, but you can be certain most of Arians’ players from  that 1984 team will be there as will a large group of Arians’ players from other years. That group has been tight as a fist and, while a trip to Florida will be a reward for the current Owls, it will be another chance for them to get together.